When most folks hear the work Supplement they immediately think grains, That isn't they type of supplementation we do, I'm talking minerals and micro-nutrients. A good mineral supplement formulated for your grazing area is a must for top performance. The lack of nutrients in the soil causes a lack of nutrient in the grass, and therefore a lack of nutrition for the animal. In our area the land is selenium, copper and cobalt deficient so we need to offer a free choice mineral mix to ensure that our cattle are getting the minerals that they need for good health, We use Redmond Salt(tm) and Redmond Clay(tm) formulated for our area using the guidelines detailed here: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/beef/as1287w.htm
Anyone considering raising livestock for any reason needs to have their soils and forages tested and provide the minerals needed for optimum health.
I recommend that anyone just starting out contact their local Agricultural Extension Service and request that their fields and or pastures be tested.
The same rule of thumb holds true for sheep, pigs and poultry. If you have ever lost lambs to White Muscle Disease or piglets to iron deficiency, you will learn real quick how valuable that salt block or mineral tub is!
I see all the time where farmers and Ranchers say that the don't supplement, in my opinion this is a disservice to the animals in their care and can cause major problems for those animals. Mineral deficiencies impact gut health, coat condition, pregnancy, bone and muscle growth, and can cause a host of problems easily avoided by having free choice mineral available at all times. It's inexpensive insurance and good for your livestock!
Next time: When are antibiotics a good idea, or "How do I keep from losing that good animal?"